Some leftovers from Thursday's weekly Patriots chat:
Shamarko (Boston, MA): What impact can a healthy Ras I Dowling make to the Pats secondary? Could he challange for a starting position?
Shamarko, there was a play in Tuesday's organized team activity where a ball was thrown to the sideline and a cornerback made a sharp break on the delivery to break it up and nearly pick it off (it would have been an easy touchdown). When it happened, because the players aren't wearing jersey numbers, my first instinct was that it was Aqib Talib because it was a taller corner flashing playmaking skills. But upon closer inspection, it was Dowling. I relay that story because it sort of captures an interesting dynamic with Dowling (33rd overall pick in 2011) this year. While he faces pressure for a roster spot, the pressure is off in the sense that no one externally seems to be paying attention to him. The top of the cornerback depth chart looks solid with Talib, Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington, and one assumes third-round pick Logan Ryan is a lock, so it puts Dowling in a tight spot. Maybe it brings out the best in him. He showed up more than once on Tuesday in terms of making plays.
Mike (North Carolina): Now that the Patriots have added more depth to the safety position, will Nate Ebner still be given a good chance to develop as a safety or is he only destined to be a special teams player?
Mike, for 2013, it looks to me like Ebner would be more of a special-teams-only type of option. That doesn't mean he couldn't one day emerge as more of a safety, but like you mentioned, one would think playing-time options will be limited based on the additions to the position this year (namely Adrian Wilson).
Matt (East Brookfield, MA): Mike, I haven't read anything about Donald Jones since he's been signed. Has he been participating in OTA's? We know he can be a thorn in a defense's side, as we experienced ourselves, and he's young. Any shot he's on the roster in September from what you've been able to see?
Matt, we only saw the one day of practice, on Tuesday, and nothing in particular stood out with Jones. He was on the field and has been assigned No. 19 on the roster.
Brandon (Morgantown, WV): Mike, I heard you mention that based on Tuesday's OTA, Michael Jenkins and Danny Amendola were looking as though they'll be the biggest part of the WRs used. Just curious how Aaron Dobson has looked thus far? Really hoping the rookie WR's aren't a bust this time.
Brandon, a lot can change between now and the start of the regular season, but it was notable to me that Amendola and Jenkins seemed to be paired together quite a bit on Tuesday. As for Dobson, his ability to catch the ball in tight spots showed up once on Tuesday, and there was also another pass or two that it looked like he should have had. I'd say he has some ground to make up at this point, like most rookies.
Rick (ct): Mike, is Bill Belichick just having fun with us by bringing in another former Rutgers player? THIS MADNESS HAS TO STOP!
Rick, the one question I think it could raise is if the affinity to Rutgers is overwriting the essence of the scouting process, and that Belichick is falling back on Rutgers when there are better options from other schools that could be brought in. The total of eight Scarlet Knights is unusual, although when I break it down, it's three rookie free agents who are longshots to make the final roster. Then you have solid players in Devin McCourty and Justin Francis, and widely viewed good value picks in cornerback Logan Ryan (third round) and linebacker Steve Beauharnais (seventh round). So, to me, it really comes down to the one outlier -- safety Duron Harmon (third round). That was the one pick that was the head-scratcher, the Patriots picking him earlier than several teams had him rated. That's how I break down the Rutgers connection, while also noting that with the 90-man roster, there is more flexibility than ever.